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November 27, 2007

Re: When Fuel and Politics Mix

Well, this will make 2008 elections easier -- Republicans, with their heads firmly in the sand, have decided that what the world and America really need is more global warming, sooner, not less.  Good luck with that pitch!

Re: When Fuel and Politics Mix - New York Times:

For Democrats, the goal of energy policy is largely about reducing oil consumption and has become inseparable from the goal of reducing the risk of climate change.

For the Republican candidates, energy policy is primarily about producing more energy at home — more oil and gas drilling on the Outer Continental Shelf and in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge; more use of American coal to produce liquid fuel; and, as with Democrats, more renewable fuels like ethanol.

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November 21, 2007

The choice

In this insightful post, Sidney Blumenthal gets at the root not only of the problem of Bush's imperial presidency, but that the challenge of returning it to a constitutional system is greater than simply having a better president in place.  While I don't buy his argument that Hilary Clinton is uniquely positioned to turn back this problem, I do think he's rightly identified a great challenge for the next president.

Re: The choice:

The more rigid the current president is in responding to the chaos he has fostered, the more the Republicans still supporting him rally around him as a pillar of strength. His flat learning-curve, refusal to admit error and redoubling of mistakes are regarded as tests of his strong character. Whatever his low poll-ratings of the moment, his stubborn adherence to failure is admired as evidence of his potency.
Despite the obvious shortcomings of his policies, he has startlingly succeeded in reshaping the executive into an unaccountable imperial presidency. And Bush's presidency is now accepted as the only acceptable version for major Republican candidates who aspire to succeed him. All of them have pledged to extend its arbitrary powers. Their embrace of the imperial presidency makes the 2008 election a turning-point in constitutional government.

A president, imperial and infallible

This campaign pits two parties running on diametrically opposite ideas of the presidency and the constitution. There has not been such a sharp divergence on the foundation of the federal system since perhaps the election of 1860.
Two models of the presidency are at odds, one whose founding father was George Washington, the other whose founding father was Richard Nixon.... For Cheney and the president under his tutelage, eagerly acting as “The Decider” on decision memos carefully packaged by “Backseat”, the constitution is a defective instrument remedied by unlimited executive power.
Torture is the linchpin of the new Republican argument on presidential power. Abuse of detainees is the metaphor for beguiling the public into supporting abuse of the presidency. The sado-masochistic ecstasy of torture and the thrill of vengeance are the ultimate appeal of the party of torture. Projecting violence against accused terrorists in an endless war is a deep political strategy to forge and fortify a new regime. This novel form of government, never before installed in the US, despite precursors from Nixon's planned seizure of powers, is being cemented into place so that its penetrability and removal will become extraordinarily difficult. Those who undertake the task of rebuilding the structure will be vulnerable to harsh political attacks as unpatriotic and subversive. Thus restoring American constitutional government after Bush demands the most strategic political and bureaucratic genius.

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November 20, 2007

Bush More Emphatic In Backing Musharraf - washingtonpost.com

Bush is thinking, “Heh, heh, heh.  Git'n' some good ideas here ....  I always said this job would be easier if America was a dictatorship and I was the dictator.  Heh, heh, heh”

Re: Bush More Emphatic In Backing Musharraf - washingtonpost.com:

President Bush yesterday offered his strongest support of embattled Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, saying the general “hasn't crossed the line” and “truly is somebody who believes in democracy.”

Bush spoke nearly three weeks after Musharraf declared emergency rule, sacked members of the Supreme Court and began a roundup of journalists, lawyers and human rights activists. Musharraf's government yesterday released about 3,000 political prisoners, although 2,000 remain in custody, according to the Interior Ministry.
“What exactly would it take for the president to conclude Musharraf has crossed the line? Suspend the constitution? Impose emergency law? Beat and jail his political opponents and human rights activists?” asked Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a presidential candidate. “He's already done all that. If the president sees Musharraf as a democrat, he must be wearing the same glasses he had on when he looked in Vladimir Putin's soul.”
“Almost everyone in Pakistan who believes in George Bush's vision of democracy is in prison today,” [Tom Malinowski, Washington director of Human Rights Watch] said. “Calling the man who put them in prison a great democrat will only discredit America among moderate Pakistanis and give Musharraf confidence that he can continue to defy the United States because Bush will forgive anything he does.”

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November 19, 2007

A Conservative Against Torture

Actually, no, Andrew, it is an American position, quite clear in our Constitution, and more than that a universal position, shared around the world across many political ideologies as exemplified in the Geneva Conventions and other treaties.  You're straining to make a left-right divide out of a shared position opposed by extremists missing the empathy gene and a respect for the constitution.

Re: A Conservative Against Torture - Daily Dish | By Andrew Sullivan:

We also have over a hundred deaths in US interrogation/custody. God knows how many of the murdered were innocent. You give government these tools - let alone one man with no oversight - and you are risking oblivion as a free society. This is a conservative position.

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Remembering Gettysburg

With apologies to President Abraham Lincoln and the vast killed and maimed in the Civil War, on the anniversary of his Gettysburg Address, for the behavior and sad legacy of President George Bush's lies, cheating, bad judgment, torture, war crimes, spying, and an unnecessary war:

Four elections -- seven long years ago -- our fore-voters brought forth on this continent a new President, conceived in Lies, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal, but some are more equal than others.

Now we are engaged in a great political war, testing whether our nation, or any nation, so deceived and so corrupted, can long endure.  We are met on a political battle-field of that war.  We have come to dedicate a portion of our lives and treasure, as a tribute for those who here gave their lives that our Constitution might live.  It is altogether fitting and proper that now we should carry on this fight.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this ground.  The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here before us, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract.  The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.  It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

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November 14, 2007

Re: The Grim Truth

The conservative National Review practically concedes defeat in 2008, accidentally revealing the inherent weakness of modern conservatism: ideology is more important than providing for the General Welfare of We The People.  They are worried that universal healthcare will be successful and cause people to turn away from conservatism.  Of course, part of the reason they are turning away is because conservatism doesn't offer answers to our current problems.  The free market we have for health insurance doesn't provide healthcare to those who need it, and that's why people are turning to progressives for answers.

Re: The Grim Truth by Ramesh Ponnuru & Richard Lowry on National Review / Digital:

The plain truth is that the party faces a cataclysm, a rout that would give Democrats control of the White House and enhanced majorities in the House and the Senate. That defeat would, in turn, guarantee the confirmation of a couple of young, liberal Supreme Court nominees.... It would probably also mean a national health-insurance program that would irrevocably expand government involvement in the economy and American life, and itself make voters less likely to turn toward conservatism in the future.

This outcome is avoidable only if Republicans understand the sources of their unpopularity. Conservatives tend to blame their travails on Republican politicians’ missteps and especially on their inability to communicate. But the public’s unhappiness with Republicans goes much deeper than any such explanation. A mishandled war, coupled with intellectual exhaustion on the domestic front, has soured the public on them. It is not just the politicians but conservative voters themselves who are out of touch with the public, stuck in the glory days of the 1980s and not thinking nearly enough about how to make their principles relevant to the concerns of today. Unforeseen events could yet change the political environment radically. As it stands, Republicans are sleepwalking into catastrophe.
An unpopular president isn’t the GOP’s only woe. Pollster Scott Rasmussen has found that the percentage of Americans who consider themselves Republicans declined steadily from 37.1 in the 2004 election to 30.8 in May of this year. It has rebounded slightly since then to 32.6 in September, but Republicans still trail Democrats by about 5 points. Other polls have had more ominous numbers. In a Pew Research Center poll earlier this year that asked people which party they identified with or leaned toward, Democrats led Republicans 50 to 35 percent. Karlyn Bowman of the American Enterprise Institute explains that the Reagan years saw a surge in Republican-party identification, and it has now washed away.

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Re: Richard Posner Favors Surveillance of All US Muslims

Re: Richard Posner Favors Surveillance of All US Muslims:

“Judge [Richard] Posner said the US temper and culture could not sustain repeated terrorist attacks.”

I think this latter justification needs to be made more explicit. One reason some conservative legal types have acquiesced in legal torture and the indefinite suspension of habeas corpus is because, I think, they believe that these measures do prevent terror attacks and that if we experienced another one, the American people would demand some kind of emergency rule even more draconian than the executive branch under Cheney and Addington. So because of al Qaeda, we have to choose between a mild, torture-lite, only-a-few-people-detained-without-trial, secret tribunal, universal surveillance regime, and Musharraf-land. The inference is: American liberty is over for a generation or two. And this doctrine is coming from a libertarian. Can you imagine what the right's more authoritarian judges believe?

This argument has come up so rarely even in implication, that I think it is not a motivator.  Conservatives may take up this notion however, as it would suit their purposes.

The concept is totally fallacious -- once installed, it would not be rolled back after a generation.  It would be more and more institutionalized and thus harder and harder to break.  They would trot out “saves” they couldn't tell us about without “compromising national security”.  We know this, because the administration already does this.  There would never be information about what was really going on to make informed judgments about the tradeoff.  We know this, because the administration already does this.

The more it was institutionalized, the more people were involved, the more it would be used first for petty crimes, then for personal and political purposes, not for terrorism.  We know this because it is human nature.  What we don't know is how much the administration is already doing this.

The US Constitution was founded on an understanding of what human nature/behavior is -- that without checks and balances, without transparency, there will always be abuses, which will become institutionalized and methodical and reach deeper and deeper into our lives until we become another authoritarian state in which political dissent is oppressed and “liberty” are words fading on an old piece of paper, even if the leaders come and go.

For the sake of our country's freedoms for We The People, we must fight tooth and nail to address the balance of security and liberty now, wishfully thinking it can happen in a generation:

  • the means for advancing our security without compromising liberty -- providing procedural oversight by Congress and the Courts by improving FISA, not gutting it; by assuring the means of bringing perpetrators to justice ... and by actually doing so: not leaving the hunt for Osama as “not that important” for military adventures elsewhere -- justice is critical
  • the understanding that we don't get to live risk-free -- never have, never will; that is a cost of freedom
  • our reputation in the world as a beacon of liberty and hope, and not a reputation of being as bad as the bad guys and torturing people too, which after all is just terrorism of the individual

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November 09, 2007

Re: Privacy vs. Security? Security.

Re: Privacy vs. Security? Security.

Obviously there are always extreme positions you can use as a straw man to bat down by implication all perceived opposition.  But Americans are comfortable with FISA, which provides procedural balance.  They are also comfortable with updating FISA procedures.  They are not comfortable with such procedures without oversight.

What they aren't comfortable with is non-procedural solutions left up to the presidential powers that be.  It is in total violation of the principles underlying our Constitution.  Those principles being founded on the understanding that unchecked power leads to abuses.  Inevitably.  No matter how well-intentioned from the start.

So either you are making a sophistic argument since Americans already agree on procedural systems that have oversight or you appear to be proposing to violate the Constitution and repudiate its understanding of human nature and its very reason for the Bill of Rights and the Separation of Powers.

Though there is one final option: Are there constitutional amendments that you propose that would make your prescription constitutional?

November 06, 2007

Re: We Don't Want More Liberal Representatives, We Want Stronger Ones

Reminds me of my posts about Spelunking and caving.

Re: We Don't Want More Liberal Representatives, We Want Stronger Ones:

But as we all know, it's not just the Mukasey appointment. It's not just Schumer. It's warrantless wiretapping, it's torture, it's Iraq, it's Iran, it's signing statements, it's the US attorneys firings, it's the Patriot Act, it's presidential secrecy, it's the Geneva Conventions, etc., etc. The list of Democratic cave-ins is so long that it's painful to think about. You could open up a buckle store with all these Democratic buckles.
It's not that the Senators don't agree with us on the Iraq War, it's that they don't vote that way! I don't need them to be more liberal - I don't even know what the “more liberal” position on Iraq is. I'm not even sure what the so-called liberal position on Iraq is. I know that we should leave Iraq because George W. Bush is never going to figure out the right strategy there and the central government of Iraq is a fraud. Is that a liberal position?

Clip:The ‘Good Germans’ Among Us

Clip: The ‘Good Germans’ Among Us:

Our moral trajectory over the Bush years could not be better dramatized than it was by a reunion of an elite group of two dozen World War II veterans in Washington this month. They were participants in a top-secret operation to interrogate some 4,000 Nazi prisoners of war. Until now, they have kept silent, but America’s recent record prompted them to talk to The Washington Post.

“We got more information out of a German general with a game of chess or Ping-Pong than they do today, with their torture,” said Henry Kolm, 90, an M.I.T. physicist whose interrogation of Rudolf Hess, Hitler’s deputy, took place over a chessboard. George Frenkel, 87, recalled that he “never laid hands on anyone” in his many interrogations, adding, “I’m proud to say I never compromised my humanity.”

Our humanity has been compromised by those who use Gestapo tactics in our war. The longer we stand idly by while they do so, the more we resemble those “good Germans” who professed ignorance of their own Gestapo. It’s up to us to wake up our somnambulant Congress to challenge administration policy every day. Let the war’s last supporters filibuster all night if they want to. There is nothing left to lose except whatever remains of our country’s good name.

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